Tuesday 24 September

12:00-1:30 pm, Adams Auditorium, UNSW Canberra at ADFA

Policies, Politics and Patrols: The Mechanics of Recognition in Australia’s Korean War

In the wake of the Second World War, the Australian government instigated a gradual process of professionalising the nation’s armed services. These reforms initiated the progression towards the contemporary Australian Army. But they also shaped the way Australian soldiers, sailors and airmen performed in battle and, consequently, affected what the military command recognised as valuable and heroic in wartime. This paper navigates the processes, policies and debates surrounding honours and awards during Australia’s Korean War, the testing ground for the nation’s new military. It argues that, as the Australian government pursued the program of modernisation, official conceptions of heroism become progressively more professionalised. The flow of honours and awards tended to favour more complex expressions of heroism that emphasised effective training, leadership, and battle proficiency. However, while senior officers and the service departments proved relatively attune to this shift and the significance of recognition to morale, initiatives to recognise heroism and meritorious service were hampered by government bureaucracy. Inexperience, inertia and cautiousness at the political and diplomatic levels restricted the quantity of awards available early on in the conflict—thereby inflating the standards for reward—and caused extensive delays in recognition. These issues provoked criticism from the Australian public and proved deleterious to the morale.

Bryce Abraham

Bryce Abraham is a recently submitted PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle. His research considers the shifting constructions of Australian military heroism from Sudan to Vietnam (1885–1975), with an emphasis on the associated constructs of masculinity and the award (and non-award) of the Victoria Cross. Bryce has received a number of competitive scholarships and grants from Australian and international bodies, including the Australian War Memorial, the Menzies Australia Institute at King’s College London, the Royal Historical Society (UK), and the Australian Army History Unit.





A “bloody migrant who thinks he can run a union”: Postwar Migrants, ASIO, and the Australian Trade Unions

In the wake of the Second World War, the resettlement of Eastern European displaced persons (DPs) across Western nations coincided with the escalating geopolitical tensions which characterised the early Cold War. In this atmosphere, DPs who settled in Australia and became involved with left-wing politics, sometimes simply by association, attracted significant and sustained attention from both other, politically-opposed migrants and Australia’s new security service – ASIO. This paper will examine the life of one Polish-born DP, named Jerzy. His journey from impassioned migrant organiser for an Australian trade union, to the physical and rhetorical vitriol of his falling out with the organisation (and his perceived role as a valuable ASIO informant throughout) is an aberrant, yet illuminating, case. Through microbiography, this paper explores the ways in which migrants navigated Australian political culture and interacted with ASIO’s surveillance, mobilising it for their own political and personal purposes.

Ebony Nilsson

Ebony Nilsson is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at the University of Sydney. Her forthcoming dissertation explores the lives of Soviet displaced persons who were active in left-wing politics and resettled in Australia during the early Cold War. She is interested in the history of intelligence agencies, the surveillance of migrant communities, and transnational histories.